Northampton’s MPs have defended their decision to vote in favour of a £30-a-week cut to a disability benefit despite fears the move could “push sick and disabled people further away from work”.
The controversial measures to reduce the amount of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for some new claimants were twice defeated in the House of Lords.
More than 30 charities and members of the Disability Benefits Consortium, including Mencap, Mind and Parkinson’s UK wrote to welfare secretary Iain Duncan Smith to try and block the moves, part of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. In the open letter the charity chiefs said the cut would “push sick and disabled people further away from work.”
But it is now set to go ahead after peers deferred to the elected Commons. All of Northamptonshire’s seven MPs voted in favour of the ESA cut.
Yesterday, Northampton South MP David Mackintosh and Northampton North MP Michael Ellis defended their decision.
Mr Mackintosh said: “Nobody currently receiving ESA payments will see any changes or loss in their funding. The new rules will be introduced from April 2017 for new claimants.
“I think it is important that our welfare system not only supports the most vulnerable but also helps those who find themselves out of work get back into employment.”
The new arrangements will include a £100 million investment into helping people with “limited capability to work”. The cuts in weekly support from £103 to £73, will apply to new ESA claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG).
Mr Ellis believes the measures will help get some sick or disabled people back into work, even though campaigners against the bill dispute this.
He said: “It was our manifesto pledge to get back into work and reduce the heavy cost to the welfare system.
“Our polls suggest that our welfare policies are among our most popular in government.
“We are making the necessary reforms to ensure the people who need financial support get it.”